SCHUYLER — Hussein Gesey walked into the Cargill Community Learning Center and got to work.
The 47-year-old Somalian immigrant began taking English as a second language (ESL) classes at the center in February. Since then, his English has come a long ways.
“I needed a translator for my job interview,” Gesey said. “Now I can help my co-workers translate while we’re working. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn English here.”
Stories like this have been common since the learning center opened its doors 10 years ago.
The center is a collaboration between Cargill and Central Community College and, according to ESL instructor Kim Parsons, its goal has remained the same.
“The goal of the Cargill Community Learning Center is to provide a student-centered environment where learners can strengthen and enhance their personal and professional skills,” Parsons said.
The center, located at the Cargill property on Schuyler's west edge, will mark its 10-year milestone Jan. 16 with an open house featuring food and refreshments.
“We want to give the community an inside look at what we do,” Parsons said. “The key is to reintroduce who we are and what we do. We really are a hidden gem doing a lot of really good things.”
Parsons said one of her favorite things about teaching at the center is the education she receives.
“What I love so much about here is learning about all the different cultures, religions and traditions,” she said. “We have students from all walks of life, all education levels, and they are from all over the world. In one class there are seven different natural languages. They actually seem to be able to work even better that way.”
Most students are employed at Cargill and other area factories, but the ESL classes are available to anyone over the age of 16. The center also offers GED and citizenship classes.
Learning center coordinator and educator Jolene Hake has only been teaching there for six months, but quickly learned the routine.
“In November, we had 93 students enrolled and registered here,” Hake said. “Those were the people that signed up from July 27 to start classes. We have four sessions per year, and each year we have new student registration. I’ve seen that the flow is pretty consistent here.”
The center caters to a wide variety of educational levels.
“Some students have postsecondary levels of education, others had to drop out in high school," Parsons said. "Because of this, we have split classes into different levels so that not everyone is grouped in classes with varying levels. Some are very educated while others want to continue their education from where they had to leave off.”
Hake takes pride in being able to provide support for students in their everyday lives.
“It’s a good example for their children to see their parents working hard for a better future,” she said. “Schuyler Community Schools has seen this, too. They are doing a great job encouraging students to fill out college and scholarship applications to further their education.”
Central Community College's involvement is also a major plus.
“The great thing about having a partnership with the college is that we can refer students with technical, welding or other forms of training to classes and information at the college,” Hake said.